The intellectual equivalent of a ham sandwich.

Yes, friends, the International Space Station (ISS) will have two residents for a full year: American astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko. Which is awesome and nuts (the typical mission is half this duration, a mere six months in OUTER SPAAAAAACE!!!).

Astronaut Scott Kelly, left, says he doesn’t want “to Russian to things with Korni.” (Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, right.) At least that’s the only thing I can think of that would lead to this posed shot.

There are seven main areas of focus during this year-long mission:

  • Functional
  • Behavioral Health
  • Visual Impairment
  • Metabolic
  • Physical Performance
  • Microbial
  • Human Factors

If you want to read more about this, you should! You can check out this article from or any number of articles that have been written about it.

What I’m interested in is the emotional impact, specifically:

  • How will relationships over such a long and very real absence change? Scott, with two children, and Mikhail with a wife and daughter … Plus undoubtedly extended friends and family. What will the relationships look like at the end of the mission as opposed to the start?
  • How complicated will the handshake sequence be at the end of the year? (e.g. Shake hands, bump fist, pour imaginary contents into imaginary test tubes, pretend to wait patiently for the results, read imaginary lengthy report, look shocked, pretend one of the guys is pregnant and the other guy is the father, go through incredibly long montage of classic pregnant man moments, pantomime birth, show that the child is … SCIENCE)
  • Will the feelings of isolation evolve into a mistrust of what could end up as a disembodied “voice in the sky” telling them their daily schedule? (The schedules for the astronauts are communicated to them from the ground, at Houston’s Johnson Space Center.)
  • Will they, to keep up physical performance, engage in wrestling? After all, it is a resistance-oriented form of work out and the resistance is supplied by another person (ideal for situations where there is no gravity). Also wrestling can become ideal as time ticks and human contact becomes … missed.

P.S. In addition to the study on the two people on board the ISS, there will be another study comparing Scott Kelly to his twin brother and fellow astronaut, Mark Kelly.

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